Negative Cannabis Side Effects and What Can You Do About Them

Smoking marijuana has a lot of benefits for your health and well-being, but there are certain negative aspects that you may experience, especially if you are relatively new to consuming medicinal marijuana in this manner. Fortunately, many of these negative side effects can be avoided.

The most common reported negative side effects from taking too much cannabis are

  • Anxiety + Paranoia
  • Tired or Sleepy
  • “White-out”
  • The Munchies
  • Shakiness and Tremors
  • Cotton Mouth

I wanted to offer some specific and practical solutions to these common negative side effects, so you can understand the underlying causes and be able to do something about them. These tips can also help take the edge off of larger therapeutic doses so you can function, focus and enjoy yourself on a regular basis.

Anxiety + Paranoia

Anxiety and paranoia are the most common negative side effects from overdoing it with cannabis. Scientists believe that the reason for this is most likely because you have cannabinoid receptors located directly in your amygdala, which is where your flight or fight response is activated. The amygdala handles fear, and THC can overstimulate the neural pathways and can trigger anything from a mild stress response to extreme paranoia. This is especially common for new or inexperienced users. Interestingly, cannabis can relieve anxiety and PTSD, probably using the same mechanism. So the same thing that can calm those fear nerves can also excite them, especially when you use too much.

The main tips you’ll hear when looking for a helpful way to tame paranoia are: hydrate, breathe, take a shower, relax, nap, listen to calm music etc. Basically, pretend you’re having a spa day and wait until it passes.  But if you’re experiencing debilitating anxiety, it can be difficult to do any of those things. There are two other quick and safe fixes for anxiety and paranoia and anxiety triggered by taking too much.

Citicoline

In a small study, Citicoline has shown promise as a brain booster that can help cannabis patients experience, “significantly lower levels of behavioral impulsivity” and “improved task accuracy”. Which is awesome in its own right. Not everyone will have the same experience, but if you’d like to use cannabis, but tend to get anxious or paranoid, it’s worth a shot. I think this is a great option to try if you’re using large therapeutic doses and can’t turn every day into a spa day.

The Black Peppercorn Trick

Reportedly, chewing on two or three whole black peppercorns can reduce levels of anxiety and paranoia. Neil Young told Howard Stern that this has worked for him and researchers have found that even sniffing (not snorting) black pepper can alleviate negative symptoms of too much THC. It’s possible that the high levels of beta-caryophyllene in black pepper are at play here. beta-caryophyllene is considered a dietary cannabinoid and is found in peppercorns, cinnamon, sage, parsley, and oregano. It attaches to the THC binding site in the CB2 receptor and reduces inflammation. Theoretically, it could inhibit THC binding in the CB2 receptors in your amygdala and reduce THC overstimulation of that neuropathway.

Supplemental CBD

On that note, supplemental CBD is a simple way to reduce many of the negative side effects of too much THC. If you have to take high doses of THC regularly, balancing it with CBD in a ratio that works for you can help mitigate anxiety and paranoia. When the amygdala get’s overly excited, using CBD can calm excess neural activity and decrease feelings of anxiety. If you’ve taken too much, you can balance it out with some CBD oil. Vaping a higher CBD strain could help if you need to alleviate the symptoms quickly, but be careful of the amount of THC present in the strain because you could make things worse.

Feeling Tired or Sleepy

Smoking can make you feel sleepy and lethargic. When you smoke, you might curl up and fall asleep, or not want to move from your couch. This is commonly referred to as couch lock and reinforces the lazy stoner stereotype. However, what if you need to sleep? One way to look at this effect of smoking is that your body needs to rest and it is relaxed enough after you smoke to fall asleep. A way to avoid feeling too tired or too sleepy right after marijuana use is to allow yourself enough sleep every day, which is when your body heals the most. Getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and exercising regularly will go a long way in helping increase your energy levels

White Out

White out is pretty common, especially when someone is trying cannabis for the first time or when they’re increasing the amount of THC in their dose. Cannabis can have a dramatic effect on blood sugar and in some cases this can lead to paleness, weakness, nausea and even temporary unconsciousness. Fortunately, this side effect is easy to remedy. Treat white out as you would a dip in blood sugar. Sipping on some juice or eating 1 or 2 small pieces of candy can help level out blood sugar quickly. When you start feeling better, eat a protein rich snack like a handful of nuts.

The Munchies

Smoking often makes you hungry. So when the munchies hit, what can you do to prevent yourself from eating the whole pantry? Focusing on healthy foods and eating what you love throughout the day will stop the mindless snacking when you’re high. Focusing on eating a variety of healthy foods will help you be more mindful when you’re smoking. Foods like mangos are supposed to enhance a high.

So, eat if you’re hungry but try to eat healthy and let the medicine help you. Also stay hydrated so you can hopefully avoid the dreaded cotton mouth effect. It might be the strain you’re smoking that makes you hungry, so changing strains can also help you to avoid the munchies.

Shakiness + Tremors

Shakiness and tremors sometimes go hand in hand with anxiety and paranoia. Most people tend to experience this side effect when out in public or when gathered with a new group of people. Shakiness can also be caused by mixing cannabis with other stimulants like coffee or sugar. If you’re sensitive to caffeine or sugar, avoid using them before you use cannabis and try not to mix the two. Since cannabis lowers body temperature, you could also experience more intense chills if you’re already cold, which could lead to shakiness.
If you start experience tremors or shakiness, check in and see which one of these may be causing the issue.

  • If it’s anxiety or paranoia, skip back to that section and use the recommendations found there.
  • If it’s caffeine or sugar, try eating some protein or fat and drink lots of water to dilute the stimulants in your system.
  • If you’re cold, hop in a warm shower or go for a vigorous walk to raise your body temperature.

Cotton Mouth

The dreaded cottonmouth. While it’s not a serious side effect, it can be annoying. And if you’re in a group of people feeling like your mouth has been glued shut, it can also exacerbate other negative effects like anxiety. Staying hydrated before you consume cannabis is a great long term solution to avoiding cottonmouth altogether, but sometimes we forget or are on the go and eat some cannabis infused candy without considering our daily water intake.

Once cottonmouth hits, drinking water isn’t the best solution since it dilutes the little bit of saliva you do have. Instead, stimulating your salivary glands and drinking ultra-hydrating drinks is much more effective. If you can handle a little bit of heat, rub a tiny amount of cayenne pepper powder on your tongue. It will burn for a minute, but kicks your saliva makers into high gear and can quickly alleviate dry mouth. Another great option is drinking fruit infused water (I like cucumber, lemon and strawberry) with a pinch of sea salt. And while it doesn’t taste as good as infused water, 1/4 cup of aloe vera juice can be very helpful for getting rid of cottonmouth.